Major Lyricists


P. F. (Paul Francis) WEBSTER  (1907–1984) was a Hollywood lyricist who won three Academy Awards for Best Original Song and was nominated sixteen times. He had his first hit in 1041 with Duke Ellington’s"I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)"After 1950, Webster worked mostly for MGM and started racking up the hits. 2 shows

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JOHNNY MERCER (1909–1976) was known as the “Poet Laureate of Popular Song.”He was also a successful singer, composer, and co-founder of Capitol Records. Mercer wrote the lyrics to more than 1,500 songs, for movies and Broadway shows. He received nineteen Oscar nominations and won four Best Original Song Oscars.

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SAMMY CAHN (1913–1993) was nominated for more than 30 Oscars and won four times. His songs were recorded by virtually every major singer. And he wrote some of the best known of all popular songs. He was also the 1983 recipient of The Johnny Mercer Award, the Songwriters Hall Of Fame’s highest honor


Although song lyrics are often referred to as a form of poetry, it is more difficult to write a lyric than a poem. Unless you are writing in a prescribed form like a haiku or sonnet, a poet has complete artistic freedom whereas a lyricist must match words to music. (In most songwriting creation, the music is written first, although some teams, like Rodgers and Hart, collaborated.)

Let’s look at the song “I Thought About You,” which master lyricist Johnny Mercer wrote to the music of Jimmy Van Heusen. The composer played the music for Mercer the day before the lyricist was taking the train to Chicago. Mercer, who always strove to tell a song’s story in the simplest language, wrote the lyrics on the train trip as he gazed out the window, Mercer not only came up with vivid imagery, he also expressed the passenger’s emotions -- while following the music’s meter and creating rhymes that didn’t sound forced. It is a brilliant example of lyric writing,



I Thought About You
I took a trip on a train
And I thought about you
I passed a shadowy lane
And I thought about you
Two or three cars parked under the stars
A winding stream
Moon shining down, on some little town
And with each beam,
Same old dream
At ev’ry stop that we made
Oh, I thought about you
And when I pulled down the shade,
Then I really felt blue.
I peeked through the crack
And looked at the track
The one going back to you.
And what did I do?
I thought about you.

Oscar Winner 1945

Oscar Winner 1973